Anders Lee at Kancer Jam

Editor’s Note: The King Clancy Memorial Trophy is presented annually to the NHL Player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community. On May 28, New York Islanders captain Anders Lee was announced as this year’s winner, as selected by a committee consisting of Commissioner Gary Bettman and former winners of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and the NHL Foundation Player Award. Below, Anders shares his unique connection to his community efforts.

Sometimes, the most significant opportunities to make a difference are the ones that you don’t see coming.

When I met Fenov Pierre-Louis in 2017, I had no idea how much of an impact he would have on my life. Fenov was a brilliant and inspiring kid who had been battling Stage 4 Neuroblastoma since he was 9 years old.

We became friends pretty quickly -- I was blown away by the vibrant energy he brought into every room, the courage he showed during his fight, and the genuine compassion he had for others. Fenov made the choice to be open about his experiences in the hopes of helping more kids and families affected by cancer. He was wise beyond his years.

And, through it all, he was always positive and smiling.

Before I met Fenov, I’d thought about finding an avenue to give back to the community. I was exploring the same questions that many NHL players ask as they settle into their careers: What should I do with my platform? How will I find the right way to make a difference?

Still, I didn’t know where the answers would come from. Meeting Fenov is when it all started to make sense. Here was an opportunity to help an amazing kid, and other kids and families who are just as courageous and inspiring in their fight against cancer. Once I realized that my platform could raise funds and awareness to make a difference in their lives, I knew I wanted to be involved.

Lee joins broadcast to talk about winning King Clancy Memorial Trophy

Everything began after I watched a video of Fenov speaking at an event for the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation in 2016, and I reached out to partner with the foundation. It raises money for families affected by cancer through Kan Jam tournaments, where participants pair up to throw frisbees and try to deflect them into plastic cans. I played a lot of Kan Jam in college, so I could tell it’d be a fun way to bring people together for a good cause.

That was the goal at the first “Anders Lee Kancer Jam,” held in March 2017. Looking back, I was definitely a little nervous. I’d never hosted a big event before, and I wanted it to go well for the families we were trying to help.

With Fenov playing as my partner in the event and serving as our guest speaker, plus the support of all my Islanders teammates, the event ended up raising more than $100,000. It was a phenomenal experience that tuned into a yearly tradition. I’ve since held three more Kancer Jams, including the most recent one in September 2023, which marked our post-pandemic return.

Along the way, something special happened. Other guys around the League reached out to host their own Kancer Jams with the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation and raise money for people in their own communities. I give a ton of credit to Zach Bogosian, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Alex Killorn, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brendan Smith, and everyone who’s participated in Kancer Jams throughout the years. You are representative of all the good people in our League who give back to the community, and I’m so proud that we’re in this together.

From the first Kancer Jam until now, over $2.5 million has been raised through the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation to support kids and families battling cancer. In 2017, if you told me that my efforts would contribute to such a huge impact, I don’t think I would’ve believed you. I was just doing something that felt right. I really didn’t have a big picture in mind.

In fact, I was actually thinking a lot about the small, day-to-day stuff. Fenov used to say it like this: “Even the smallest amount of help and sympathy that you can provide to a person with cancer will mean the absolute world.” To me, those words have always been a reminder of how important it is to make personal connections with cancer patients and their families. Whether it’s a phone call to check how they’re doing, a text with some encouragement, a postgame chat at UBS Arena, or an extra gift around the holidays -- I’ve tried to keep in touch however I can to put a smile on their face and let them know they’re not alone.

Anders Lee wins King Clancy Memorial Trophy

Fenov was full of lessons like that. He was the backbone of such an incredible movement to change people’s lives. And if cancer hadn’t taken his ability to grow up, I know he would have excelled in anything he chose to study and pursue. Fenov lost his battle with cancer in July 2018. Before he passed away, I promised him that together with the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation, we would continue to spread his message of positivity and help families fighting this disease.

To honor his legacy, I decided to launch the Fenov’s Scholars program, which offers scholarships to college-bound high school seniors who have “provided help and sympathy” to someone with cancer.

Each year, I read the applications with my wife, Grace. We’re always inspired to see so many young people leading with their heart and making a difference for family members, neighbors, classmates, and friends. There is a ton of good in this world, and it shines through in their stories.

That may be the most important thing I’ve learned since I started using my platform: When you find the good in this world, you should do everything you can to encourage it and keep it going.

I saw goodness in every interaction I had with Fenov. I see goodness at every Kancer Jam event that brings communities together to raise funds to help others. And I see goodness every time Islanders fans make donations to support our efforts or write in to let us know about someone with cancer who could use a little positivity and support. A note like that shows how much they care about what others are going through. If I’ve been able to respond and help create a special moment, it’s only because someone else was looking out for the people around them.

To have my name engraved on the King Clancy Memorial Trophy is a huge honor, but it’s not mine alone. I’m sharing this recognition with all of the cancer patients and families who I’ve had the chance to meet. I’m grateful to the entire New York Islanders organization, the incredibly supportive Islanders fanbase, my Jam Kancer In The Kan Foundation family, the many community leaders whose teamwork, collaboration, effort, and incredible generosity have helped our programs grow… and most importantly: to my always-smiling buddy Fenov, who inspired me to realize my purpose when I didn’t even know it myself. This one’s for you, kid.

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